Activities You Should Try: Trail Running


If you are weary of the stuffiness and stagnation of indoor running and the inflexible discomfort of hard pavement, you might consider trail running. As a unique and memorable exercise experience, trail running affords you an exhilarating and therapeutic outlet, allowing you to view scenery, inhale fresh air, and reconnect with creation. Consider the following benefits of trail running:

Physical Benefits

Trail running challenges both the cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems in unique ways. Trail surfaces are riddled with rocks and depressions, making vigilance and precision a necessity, and enhancing coordination and agility. Muscles rarely utilized must adjust to the trail, working to stabilize the body against rough landings. The body compensates for uneven surfaces by running on the balls of the feet, rather than the heel, protecting the body from unnecessary jarring.

Also of benefit are the continuous ups and downs of the trail, allowing for intermittent phases of exertion and recovery. One’s cardiovascular system is employed to a significant degree on the uphill portions of the trail, with recovery following during the downhill portion. Muscles are worked in different but equally beneficial ways. Downhill gradients work muscles eccentrically, or extend them to anticipate the shock of the landing. This does cause some immediate tearing and muscle damage, but torn muscles will ultimately be stronger upon a full recovery. Uphill portions work the muscles of the legs in a concentric manner, or contract them to create force for movement.

Psychological Benefits

Urbanization and technology have revolutionized our thinking and way of life to a disturbing degree, so why not take the opportunity to “get away from it all.” Mountain trails teem with natural life, and offer a combination of solitude and atmosphere that is noticeably dissimilar to the pressure and hubbub of urban environments. Trail running not only gives the mind the normal benefits associated with running (such as the release of endorphins) but adds to them enjoyment and invigoration gleaned from being in the natural world.

Because competitive and time-obsessed running can make running a chore rather than a desire, trail running can help a runner focus on the experiences of running that are enjoyable rather than mundane. A trail offers a constant change of scenery, various surfaces and obstacles to overcome, and a nonstop challenge. Rocks, trees, and sunshine offer a therapy all their own. With the added enjoyment that comes from being in creation, the distance and duration of the run naturally become secondary considerations, and the experience of running itself will become preeminent.


  • Hydration and Nutrition – Prehydration should be routine preparation for trail running. Make sure you drink plenty of water prior to hitting the trail! Also, make sure you drink plenty of water while on the trail. Depending on the outside temperature, the body may use more water than you think.
  • Equipment – If you have weak ankles, trails can be especially unforgiving. Shoes that provide extra ankle support are a necessity.


Douglas J. Casa, PhD, ATC, FNATA, FACSM, Rebecca L. Stearns, MA, ATC, […], and Carl M. Maresh, PhD, FACSM. Influence of hydration on physiological function and performance during trail running in the heat.

Baechle, Thomas, Earle, RogerNSCA’s Essentials of Personal Training

Photo by GORE-TEX® Products 


Originally posted 2013-11-04 06:42:37.

Ladies' Guide to Warm-Weather Running Clothes

For us ladies there’s an outfit for every occasion. Running is no exception.
Even if you have clothes you work out in, running is a little different, especially if you are running a long distance in warm weather.  You’ll be repeating the same motions over and over again, increasing the oh-so-great possibility of chaffing. Also, if you’re like me, you probably sweat a bit more when you run a few miles than when you lift weights, especially in warmer weather.  For these reasons, it would be wise to invest in a few pieces of comfortable and breathable running clothes. If you select the right pieces, you won’t have to go back to buy more any time soon (unless you want to).  Also, purchasing the right gear doesn’t have to drain your wallet.

Here are some things to keep in mind when looking for women’s warm-weather running attire:
Every woman is different.
Just because a friend suggests one brand of clothing, does not mean it will work best for you. Along the same line, just because it looks good on a model in a magazine, does not mean it will fit your body the same way. But just because the clothes don’t look the same on you as the model in the magazine doesn’t make you any less pretty! God created us all unique and beautiful in our own ways so find what works for YOU.

Just because it’s expensive, doesn’t mean it’s the best.
This is true with all clothing, but newbie runners are especially drawn to fancy brand name pieces. As with most things, a higher price might correlate with better quality but not always. You might actually just be paying for the brand. Personally, I get most of my workout clothes at Target, where I can find cute, functional pieces that don’t break the bank. 

Proper fit.
If you are uncomfortable when you try the clothes on in the fitting room, there is no way you will be able to get very far on the trail. If you’re having to tug your shirt down or adjust your shorts every five minutes on a run, you’re sure to have a bad running experience.

Test it out.
In the dressing room, don’t just make sure you like the print or that the color brings out your eyes. Run in place a little. Do some jumping jacks (this is especially helpful in knowing whether a particular sports bra will work for you). Don’t worry about what the girl in the dressing room next to you might think — it’s important that you buy pieces that will actually work for you, not ones that will sit at the bottom of your drawer.

Moisture wicking/Proper air flow.
I know you have that all cotton shirt that looks so cute, but resist wearing cotton for running. Cotton is not efficient at wicking moisture and will make you feel hot and sweaty. The longer you can stay cool, the longer and better you can run.  For warm weather, look for shirts and shorts that are polyester or cotton/polyester blends.  

Try compression socks.
These tight-fitting socks can be worn during or after your run to help keep blood flowing and to reduce recovery time. Most of the ones you find are long and to the knee.

Good running socks.
If you’re not up for running in knee-length socks, I like ankle-length running socks with padding at the back to prevent blisters as well as a slight compression band around the arch.  Breathable running socks are usually made with a nylon blend fabric.

If you’re running outside, you will need sunglasses. Look for a pair that has UV protection to protect your eyes. You will also want to pick ones that won’t slide off your nose and/or won’t break if you drop them (It might be a good idea to sport the 80’s looking sunglass croakies).  Polarized lenses is another option, which can provide increased clarity and help you enjoy the views.

Another note:
Personally, I really think we need to bring back sweat bands, what do you think? They’re the perfect way to keep sweat out of your eyes…I don’t understand why they went out of style.

Do you run? What suggestions do you have for warm-weather running wear?

Recommended Products:


Originally posted 2013-09-09 11:41:21.

13.1 Reasons to Sign Up for a Half-Marathon

2009 10-04 SJ Rock 'n' Roll Half 290-2Are you looking for a way to get in shape or reach your running goals?  Perhaps running a half-marathon or marathon has crossed your mind?  Well, if you needed a few convincing reasons to sign up for that race, read on!

1. New Fitness Motivation.
Are you getting bored with your workouts? Does your fitness routine have no drive or purpose? When you are trying to build up distance and make sure you can cross that finish line, you will have so much more motivation to fit your workouts in. There are many plans you can find online, my favorites being from Hal Higdon. Following a fitness plan to achieve a goal helps you stick with it.

2. Get Fit.
If you aren’t used to logging 15+ miles a week currently, or an equal amount of workouts, you will probably notice positive changes to your body if you train properly. Hello calf muscles!

3. Runner’s High.
If you have never experienced this, get on it! The rush of endorphins after finishing a physically exhausting run is amazing. You will feel exhilarated, refreshed, happy and ready to take on the world.

4. Exercise= More Energy.
I know it seems counter-intuitive, but you really will have more energy when you exercise regularly. The release of endorphins (“runner’s high” from above), will surely boost your productivity. It will also help you sleep better at night.

5. Building Relationships.
Training for something like running 13.1 miles straight is not something everyone goes through. I got to know my last roommate better by running training miles with her. The time spent together was so special since we were running towards the same goal. I signed up for my second half this year basically for the sole purpose of getting my friends together to run. There is a unique bond between people training for half-marathons, and you can be a part of it!

6. Run to Benefit a Charity.
If you think you will need additional motivation to sign up for a run, sign up to run for a charity. In this scenario, you are charged with raising a certain amount of money for a cause you believe in. In October, I’m running for Girls on the Run, an amazing organization aimed at teaching young girls self-esteem and healthy habits. Every single time I don’t want to go out and run, I think twice. I do not want to let those girls down, plus I am working hard to raise money, so I don’t want that effort to go to waste.

Aside from running for a specific charity, almost all runs donate to one or multiple charity organizations. So you can help yourself by running and help others by racing.

7. New Shoes.
Since you will be putting lots of miles on your shoes, there is a change that you will need to buy some new ones. I keep track of my shoe miles either on After 200 miles, I start looking for new shoes. Who doesn’t like an excuse to buy new gear?

8. Gained Confidence.
I cannot tell you how awesome it felt to cross the finish line after 13.1 miles of running this past May. A million emotions flooded my brain, but one that stuck around was the confidence that if I can do that, I can do anything.

9. Test the Waters for a Full Marathon.
A half marathon is that perfect distance. Yes, it is a time commitment. Yes, it is a challenge. But a full marathon is something that requires all of your energy, motivation and time. If you want to take on a full marathon, consider a running a half-marathon first to gauge yourself physically and mentally.

10. Participation Medal.
You can acquire many cool medals at half marathons; the bigger the race, the more extravagant the medal.

11. Training is a Great Time to Jam to Worship Music.
I have had some tough runs that I am sure I wouldn’t have been able to get through without positive worship music blasting through my headphones. God is good and brings up the perfect songs just when I need them. I recall one instance specifically when the most beautiful song came on as I was running up a crazy hill, breaking a personal distance record. I reached the top of the hill and tears filled my eyes. I had made it, and it was like God was beside me the entire time. So. Amazing.

12. Running Relieves Stress.
Running has been the biggest stress reliever I’ve ever experienced. Since you can’t really do anything else besides run, you are able to relax and think about your day, dream about the future, and if you’re like me, write a blog post in your head.

13. Providing an Example.
It’s no secret that when someone gets pumped up for something, others want to join in. Aside from following Christ, what is better than inspiring people to get healthy? You never know who might be watching and gaining inspiration from your dedication to a goal.

You can do anything for 13 miles.
Okay, probably not anything, but don’t make it scarier than it is! It will take hard work for sure, but you can do all things through Him who gives you strength! (Phil 4:13)

What do you think? Are you convinced?

What else would you be interested in learning about running/racing?

Recommend Links: Hal Higdon Half Marathon Training Plan

Originally posted 2013-09-05 11:42:55.

Optimum Carbohydrate Loading For Ultra-Endurance Athletes

While I’m generally a proponent of eating a low carbohydrate (for weight-loss) or moderate carbohydrate diet (for sustainable health), a number of studies indicate that ultra endurance athletes, athletes who compete in events longer than 90 minutes in duration, perform better when they have an adequate supply of glycogen.  Glycogen is the body’s stored form of glucose, and is one of the primary sources of energy for endurance activities where the average percentage of vo2 max is greater than 65%. Glycogen stores, which are found in the muscles and connected to the liver, are best replenished by consuming an ample amount of carbohydrates.

While studies have found that ultra-endurance athletes on a low-carbohydrate diet can adapt to better utilizing fat for energy, it turns out that these athletes are not able to perform as well as a athletes with adequate stores of glycogen.  Numerous studies indicate that endurance athletes on high-fat diets experience greater levels of perceived exhaustion and usually aren’t able to perform as well as athletes on high carbohydrate diets.

While in rats and some people, it’s been found that extremely high fat diets (greater than 75%of the diet), do promote high levels of endurance in combination with training, the greater body of evidence supports high-carbohydrate intake for increased ultra-endurance performance.  Should growing evidence change this indication, we’ll let you know! Otherwise, follow the carbohydrate-loading recommendations below to optimize your ultra-endurance performance.  

Amount of Carbohydrates for Optimal Training and Competition
The optimal amount of carbohydrate consumption for ultra-endurance exercise it thought to be between 2.5 and 4.5 grams of carbohydrate per pound of bodyweight.  Of course, this is a big range.  This means if you weigh 150 lbs and regularly run more than 90 minutes per day, you’ll need 375 – 675 grams of carbohydrates per day.  You can start to narrow down this range by topping out your carbohydrate intake at 600 grams per day.  At least one study indicates that carbohydrate levels above 600 grams may not provide additional benefit.  Further narrow down this range by calculating your basic macronutrient and energy needs to determine how many additional calories you need from carbohydrates.  For example if your basal metabolic rate (the calories you burn just living) is 2500 calories and you burn an additional 3,500 calories running a 50k, then you should eat the full 600 grams of carbohydrates, which equals 2,400 calories.  However, if you only burn 1,475 calories running a half marathon, then you’ll only need to consume the minimum of 375 grams of carbohydrates (375 X 4 cal = 1,500 calories).

Ratio of Macronutrients
The best ratio of macronutrients (fat, protein, carbohydrates) for ultra-endurance athletes is a topic of debate, but I think the current evidence suggests that a balanced ratio, high in proteins, is optimal for muscle regeneration and energy production.  

Here’s what I recommend:

  • Start with the amount of protein your body will need to repair itself from the tremendous catabolic effects of endurance exercise — approximately 1 to 1.4 grams of protein per pound of body weight. For example, if you weigh 150 lbs, you’ll need a minimum of 150 grams of protein per day (600 calories from protein).
  • Aim to meet approximately 40% of your body’s basal metabolic need for calories by an intake of healthy fats (butter, avocados, coconut oil, meat, eggs).  For example if your basal metabolic rate is 2,000 calories, aim to get 800 calories from fat (89 grams of fat).  Fat is vital for a healthy nervous system and for repairing cells.
  • From there, fill the rest of your caloric need in with carbohydrates based on your amount of training/competition.  For example, once you’ve obtained 1,400 of your calories from protein and fat, you’ll still need 600 calories from carbohydrates (150 grams of carbohydrates) just to meet your minimum calorie need, assuming it’s 2,000 calories.  So, if you burn an additional 3,000 calories per week running, then you’ll need to include an additional 750 grams of carbohydrate in your diet, which can be spread out evenly throughout the week.  To optimize glycogen storage, you can also concentrate the consumption of these 750 grams of carbohydrates in a few days, which will help you achieve the recommended 2.5-4.5 grams of carbohydrates per pound of bodyweight.

Macronutrient Overview

  • Protein – 1-1.4 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight
  • Fat – 30-40% of total basal metabolic calorie need (daily calorie need without exercise)
  • Carbohydrates – 2.5-4.5 grams of carbohydrate per pound of bodyweight, depending on energy expended in ultra-endurance training.
  • A side-note: For the most part, high quality fats and carbohydrates are interchangeable for energy needs, feel free to vary the ratios of carbs and fat based on your individual calorie needs and how you are feeling during exercise.  Keep in mind that eating the most balanced ratio of protein:fat:carbs possible will promote improved digestion, nutrient absorption, and stable blood-sugar levels.

Quality of Carbohydrates
While carbohydrates are frowned-upon in paleo and low-carb fitness circles, the evidence indicates that its not the amount of carbohydrates that negatively impacts health, as mush as the quality of carbohydrates.  Get as many of your carbohydrates as possible from whole-food, nutrient-rich sources, such as greens, sweet-potatoes, beets, carrots, quinoa, and raw, unfiltered honey.

Avoid processed sugar, such as that found in candy, sugar, ice cream, and other refined foods.  These types of sugars negatively affect the body’s health in numerous ways. Read our previous article on Why Sugar is Toxic for more information.

Carbohydrate Loading
The original method of “carbohydrate-loading” involved a seven day process of limiting carbohydrates for 3-4 days during intense training, followed by 3 days of rest and carbohydrate gorging. While effective at increasing glycogen stores, this method proved taxing and disrupted athletes’ ability to engage in optimum training levels before an event. 

The most recommended form of carbohydrate loading is merely an extension of normal carbohydrate fueling.  Instead of drastic depletion and repletion, ultra-endurance athletes should increase the amount of their carbohydrate intake towards the upper level of 600 grams per day,  starting 3-7 days before a competitive event, while simultaneous tapering down their amount of training.  

Best Times for Carbohydrate Consumption
For optimal energy supply and glycogen repletion, healthy carbohydrates should be consumed immediately before and immediately after training or competition.  

  • From 2 hours to 30 minutes before an event, endurance athletes may experiment with consuming .5 to 1 gram of carbohydrates per pound of bodyweight.  The more carbohydrates one plans to eat, the earlier the carbohydrates should be consumed.
  • Endurance athletes should also aim to consume about .5 grams of healthy carbohydrates within 30 minutes after an event. 

Amount of Carbohydrates During the Event
Endurance athletes can digest and utilize approximately 1 gram of carbohydrate per minute of activity. Thus, during ultra-endurance events, athletes should be consuming about 60 grams of carbohydrates per hour.  Just remember, everyone is little different in terms of what they are able to digest, so the actual amount will take a little bit of personal experimentation.  You may be able to utilize anywhere between 45 and 75 grams of carbohydrates per hour.  

A Note on Weight-Loss Versus Athletic Performance
Keep in mind that these recommendation are for ultra-endurance activities of 90 minutes in duration or longer.  Also, such high-levels of carbohydrate intake are primarily for improving athletic performance, not for weight-loss.  If weight-loss is your goal, it may be better to stick with a low-carbohydate/high-protein diet and mix your endurance training with high-intensity exercises, such as sprinting and weight-lifting.  

Sources: “High Carbohydrate Versus High Fat Diets in Endurance Sports,” by Asker E. Jeukendrup; “Endurance and Ultra-Endurance Athletes,” Jones and Bartlett Publishers

Originally posted 2013-09-03 17:35:05.

Beet Root Juice for Increased Endurance and Health

We Got the BeetMaybe, with his love for beets, Dwight was on to something after all.  While, I might not go out and start a beet farm, it turns out that beet juice can provide increased athletic endurance.  Apparently it’s the juice’s nitrate content that’s responsible for the benefit.  Although the exact mechanism isn’t known, it’s thought that the nitrates help improve energy efficiency in the muscles.  Another benefit of beet juice is that it can help lower systolic blood pressure by relaxing the blood vessels.

The benefits of drinking beet juice are dose dependent, with the best results obtained by consuming 240 to 500 ml of beet root juice approximately 2 hours before exercising.  One study found that consuming beet juice extended time to failure by 14%!

Recommended Products:

References: Beet Root Juice and Exercise (PubMed) and A Toast to Health and Performance (Journal of Applied Physiology)

Originally posted 2013-05-22 22:26:41.

Jessica's couch to 5K to half marathon story – be motivated!

My first 5k – Oct, 2010

In August 2010 I decided to change my life. Well, maybe it wasn’t that dramatic. I knew I didn’t like how I looked, how I felt or the example I was setting for my kids. I knew I wanted to lose weight, but the task seemed impossible. Starting off at 218 pounds (E gads! I’ve admitted it!) I wanted to lose 48 pounds and get down to 170 pounds (about where I was when I got married 6 years before and felt better about myself). Weight has always been something I struggled with though, so the battle ahead was daunting.

As a kid I was always chubby and considered myself fat as a teen. (Side note, looking back now I don’t consider myself fat then. Chubby yes… Boy, gaining a bunch more weight certainly gives perspective.) During my teen years I did a lot of dieting and trying to lose weight. I really had no idea what I was doing and just wanted an easy way out. I was never athletic and hated PE with a passion. Some days I’d nearly be sick over the anxiety of PE class. My motto was “I run for fear, not for fun.” I also had asthma and used that excuse to the fullest extent (I also didn’t understand that having asthma didn’t mean I couldn’t do anything.) Right after high school and into college, I hovered around 175-185 if I remember correctly. I met my husband during the summer after high school and dated for three years. We were married in 2004 and after exercising before the wedding I weighed 175.

I maintained that weight until the fall of 2006, when I started a one year Master’s program. This program really was insane. It crammed two years of classes, internship and thesis into a 9 month period. I quickly learned to eat to

Me and my husband - Oct, 2010
Me and my husband – Oct, 2010

survive during that time. I needed to be awake longer, survive on less sleep and eat what was easy and quick. This meant lots of sugar, soda and fast food. I only had time to peel a wrapper and eat it. The funny thing is that now if I want more energy and to think better I’d eat healthy, because eating poorly makes me feel sluggish and icky. I gained 10 pounds during those 9 months. I justified eating this way because of needing to survive the program, and I would stop eating this way when it was done. I didn’t. I kept eating this way. Easy and quick was in fact easy and quick and tasty. Even now from time to time, when I’m feeling tired and need a pick-me-up, I can catch myself thinking at first that I should get something sweet or a soda. I made myself think that I was eating differently after graduation, but my calorie counts still stayed high and the quantities were big.

By the time 2009 rolled around I was 215 pounds. In April 2009 I lost 15 pounds, but after a car accident in December 2009 I gained that weight back plus three pounds. The car accident left me with back problems. I couldn’t do much of anything. No picking up the kids, bending over, moving much…sitting and standing both hurt a lot, so exercise was off the map. My life became more sedentary, but my eating habits stayed the same.

Thankfully, after a lot of prayer and physical therapy, I slowly became better, but I really wasn’t happy with the way I looked. I didn’t want this to be my example to my children, and I hated being in photos. I knew I would probably feel better if I lost weight too (and boy was that an understatement).

recent-weight-lossOne year ago, in August 2010, I didn’t think I’d be able to lose so much weight. In fact I felt it was next to impossible, but I started off striving for one pound, then two, then three… and so on. Now I’m down 42.5 pounds, and weigh 175.5 pounds. The funny thing is that I now wear a size 10, and the last time I weighed this I wore a size 12. Gaining muscle & losing fat makes a difference. Five and a half pounds to go until I reach my first goal weight!

I started off using two months of Nutrisystem. I like Nutrisystem, because it uses real food, tastes good and gave me an outline for how I needed to eat. After that I mimicked the plan’s calorie count, food group balancing and other nutrients. The rest is history. I started off with 1600 calories a day and am now down to about 1500 calories a day (with doctor’s approval of course) — as I’ve lost weight I’ve needed less/day to keep up the same weight loss/week. If you have an iPhone, you have to use the LoseIt app! I wouldn’t have been able to do it with out that app!

I also started running in September 2010. I hated running. Remember, my motto for running was “I run for fear, not for fun.” But on a fateful girls’ night out my friend (who has lost a lot of weight herself) encouraged me to do a 5K and told me about Couch to 5K. I looked up the program and it seemed reasonable. It would give me a good training plan, and I’d lose weight along the way.

On October 30th I did my first 5K after only 5 weeks of training. I thought I was going to die, but I did it! On Thanksgiving, two days after my Papa died, I did my second 5K after finishing 9 weeks of training. God and running got me through my Papa’s illness and death. After finishing the 5K training program my friends encouraged me to move onto a 10K. Why not? This was getting addicting and that was only twice the 5K. Of course there was Bridge to 10K to help, and I loved it as much as the first program! Sometime after my first 5K, a friend coerced me into doing a half-marathon. On Superbowl Sunday of this year I did my first 10K, and in March I did a half-marathon. In May I ran my second 10K.

I’m currently training for my second half-marathon on October 2nd. I have gone from a person who dreads running to someone who gets restless if I go a couple days without running. In April I also had the opportunity to run a 5K with a friend who ran her first 5K. I’m still slower than I’d like to be, but I’ve come a long, long ways from the girl who couldn’t even run a minute. My first mile time was over 18 minutes and my most recent personal record was 10:10. I get so excited to see my progress and how far I’ve come.

During my journey, I’ve also grown deeper relationships with my friends. A group of us would meet every weekend to run, jog or walk at whatever pace we were at and however far we were going. We bonded so much during this time and cheered each other on. It was helpful knowing that there were people waiting to meet, so I couldn’t bail, and who understood what I was going through too. My dear friend and I ran alongside each other in the 10K and half-marathon pushing each other on when the other needed encouragement.

Running has also deepened my relationship with God. It has taught me another side of Him. It has taught me about endurance in Him, trusting Him and caring for the body He’s given me. There have been many, many runs where each step was done in prayer. He taught me that He will provide me strength and sustain me. He taught me that He knows what is ahead and has a plan for me. These lessons learned while running have overflowed into other areas of my life as well. Jeremiah 29:11 ~ “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

recent-race-progressI had no idea how many areas of my life would change. I didn’t know I would be happier and focus better. I didn’t know my friendships would deepen. I certainly didn’t know that I would inspire others. I didn’t do this to inspire others. I started off selfishly to change myself. Thankfully God has used my selfish intentions and is using my journey to inspire others. I couldn’t have done any of this without God, my friends, my husband and my kids. I’m proud that I’m setting a good example for my children, especially my daughter. I hope and pray that my kids won’t struggle with weight and food the way I have.

At the end of last August, I started trying a yoga dvd, bought a $50 treadmill and took my first step. Then there was that fateful girls’ night out when a friend told me about Couch to 5K and said she’d run a 5K with me. And I said “Why not?” That seemed like it would be a good goal. I had no idea that moment was really the start of three 5K’s, two 10K’s, a half marathon, training for another half marathon, a blog and motivating others. I’ve lost 42.5 pounds, gained a ton of self confidence, deepened friendships and overhauled my life. Now I am the example I want to be to my kids. In fact recently my kids were talking about how they’re growing and getting bigger, when my daughter piped up, “Mommy, you’re shrinking!” Why yes I am.

~ Jessica

Originally posted 2011-09-06 07:12:00.

Stress fractures from barefoot running

During the past few years of my barefoot running career, barefoot running has taken off in popularity.  I truly believe in the health benefits of barefoot running, and have experienced several benefits myself.  For one, I no longer get painful shin splints.  Secondly, my previous knee injury no longer causes me pain.  Moreover, my feet and calves are greatly strengthened, and I love the feel of the earth beneath my feet.  Nevertheless, many people have experienced negative effects from barefoot running, namely foot injuries.  A stress fracture to one of the metatarsal bones is the most common barefoot running injury.  Enough injuries have taken place that many podiatrists and orthopedists are discouraging barefoot running altogether.  Yet, take a look at the cause of stress fractures as described straight from the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeon’s website: “Stress fractures often are the result of increasing the amount or intensity of an activity too rapidly.”  In other words, barefoot running isn’t the cause of stress fractures, it’s jumping into something your body has never done too quickly!  Stress fractures are also more common in women than men, and it’s important to make sure you’re obtaining proper nutrition to support bone health, especially calcium and vitamin D.

Barefoot running is healthier for your feet, joints, and spine, but it’s a technique that must be learned and eased into.  Most people never walk or run barefoot except on the beach.  Our feet are weak, deformed, and shoe-dependent from wearing shoes all our lives.  Feet need to be strengthened slowly.  As your feet are strengthened by walking barefoot around the block a few times, then adding progressively longer runs, muscles will develop that support the metatarsals, and your bones will strengthen. Many people are excited about the idea of running barefoot, which is awesome; yet, few are willing to start out completely  barefoot.  The cool new “barefoot” or minimalist running shoes are oh so enticing and cultural norms of keeping feet shod are difficult to let go of, but starting out with minimalist shoes without learning to properly run in the barefoot style will result in a stress fracture! The importance of running COMPLETELY barefooted before wearing minimalist shoes cannot be overemphasized. Feet have one of the highest concentration of nerve endings in the body.  These nerve endings aren’t meant to be covered up and ignored; they’re meant to teach you how to run softly.  If you follow my advice, and ease into running barefoot, you’ll avoid a stress fracture and eventually reap the benefits of running the way your were designed to run!

Regarding barefoot sprinting, yes, it is possible to sprint barefooted.  In fact, sprinting techniques closely resemble running barefoot at moderate speeds.  Proper form involves keeping the body relaxed, slightly lifting the toes while in the air, and striking the ball of the foot first (this does not look like running on your toes.  In fact, if you watch sprinters it almost looks like they land flat-footed). Again, it’s important to work up to sprinting in general, let alone sprinting barefooted.  Your body is perfectly capable of sprinting without shoes, but you shouldn’t and can’t go from 0 to 20mph overnight!  As you progressively add mileage and speed to your barefoot running routine, slowly add short sprints and build from there.  Sprints are a more aggressive form of running and you will not land on your heel but primarily on the ball and midsection of the foot.  For more information about barefoot running, check out my previous blog.  

Originally posted 2011-08-23 18:41:00.